China Locks Down 51 Million Amid COVID Surge, Igniting Public Outcry

Inside a newly-shutdown Chinese hospital deemed the latest COVID-19 outbreak hotspot, overworked nurses started a shouting match with doctors demanding basic measures of protection. In some Chinese universities, students broke down in tears after some were sealed inside their dorms without access to water or toilets. Elsewhere in some rental apartments, tenants were shocked to learn that they had to pack up within hours because what they considered their home would be converted into quarantine facilities. Over the past week, scenes of exasperation have emerged in various parts of China as officials battled against the “stealth omicron” variant that has fueled the country’s purported worst outbreak since the pandemic began two years ago. Among the regions hit were the southern technology hub of Shenzhen, whose 17.5 million residents were put into lockdown. Dongguan city in southeastern China and northeastern Jilin Province, home to 10 million and 24 million inhabitants respectively, were also subjected to lockdown orders. In less than two weeks since March 1, China has reported more than 10,000 cases spanning most provinces, said Lei Zhenglong, the vice director for the National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention, on March 14, adding that in some districts the outbreaks are still developing at an “accelerating speed.” Critics have long been skeptical of Beijing’s official virus figures, citing the Chinese Communist Party’s routine practice of suppressing information that harms its image and its need to sustain the propaganda narrative that the regime is keeping the pandemic under control. The tally that Lei gave nonetheless marks the highest yet recorded in the country since April 2020. “There’s no way it’s accurate,” one resident from Changchun, where 9 million residents have been locked in their homes since three days earlier, told The Epoch Times, referring to Beijing’s official infection count. As most countries learn to live with the virus, mainland China is among the final holdovers of the “zero-COVID” policy, despite growing questions about whether the goal is ever achievable and concerns over its mounting toll on the economy. On Monday, Lei insisted that the approach, which the regime has recently labeled as “dynamic COVID-zero,” to be “absolutely effective.” “We need to take action earlier, faster, stricter, and more thoroughly in outbreak response because the Omicron virus is sneaky and fast-spreading,” he said. A health worker dressed in protective clothing waits to assist people at a mass testing site to prevent COVID-19 in Beijing, China, on March 14, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images) ‘We Have Families Too’ The policy has pushed officials to defer academic and civil servant tests, and more than half a dozen cities have suspended in-person classes. Many higher institutions are also barring their students from setting foot outside. But the strain is already showing among the general populace. At Shanghai Sixth People’s Hospital, which was locked down after one patient tested positive to COVID-19, an emotional nurse confronted a doctor who asked her to care for COVID-19 patients despite not having adequate protection gear. The doctor had told her “COVID-19 is not a contagious disease” and apparently hit a male nurse who refused to comply. “Since you claim it’s not contagious, take your mask off,” the nurse shouted at a man opposite her who was donning a full hazmat suit and a transparent face shield mask in a video that went viral on the Chinese internet. “You can ask all of us nurses here, most of us are taking sleeping pills,” the nurse continued. She added that they rise up at 4:30 a.m. to test patients’ health and sleep on paper boards. “My pulse rate is 120 minimum … we have families too.” When authorities in Guangzhou, a southern port city, closed an exhibition midway upon identifying one virus case and trapped roughly 50,000 visitors inside for mass testing, some climbed fences to make their way out. ‘Just Laughable’ Backlash also followed when Shanghai officials evicted tenants with little notice to make space for quarantining virus contacts. Li Min, who rented an apartment in the city’s upscale Xuhui district, said that she and about 100 other mostly office workers only got a two-hour window on March 10 to move out of the apartment building. She was incredulous at first. “This is not a hotel, it’s an apartment. Some of us have lived here for three or five years. To us, this is home,” Li, who used an alias when speaking to the media, said in an interview. The residents began to protest through all channels available, calling the police and the neighborhood committee officials, and eventually the authorities extended the deadline to midnight. The residents paid all the moving costs out of their own pocket with “not a penny of compensation,” Li told The Epoch Times. “If they at least gave us two days’ time, we could all understand,” she said. “But they put out s

China Locks Down 51 Million Amid COVID Surge, Igniting Public Outcry

Inside a newly-shutdown Chinese hospital deemed the latest COVID-19 outbreak hotspot, overworked nurses started a shouting match with doctors demanding basic measures of protection.

In some Chinese universities, students broke down in tears after some were sealed inside their dorms without access to water or toilets.

Elsewhere in some rental apartments, tenants were shocked to learn that they had to pack up within hours because what they considered their home would be converted into quarantine facilities.

Over the past week, scenes of exasperation have emerged in various parts of China as officials battled against the “stealth omicron” variant that has fueled the country’s purported worst outbreak since the pandemic began two years ago. Among the regions hit were the southern technology hub of Shenzhen, whose 17.5 million residents were put into lockdown. Dongguan city in southeastern China and northeastern Jilin Province, home to 10 million and 24 million inhabitants respectively, were also subjected to lockdown orders.

In less than two weeks since March 1, China has reported more than 10,000 cases spanning most provinces, said Lei Zhenglong, the vice director for the National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention, on March 14, adding that in some districts the outbreaks are still developing at an “accelerating speed.”

Critics have long been skeptical of Beijing’s official virus figures, citing the Chinese Communist Party’s routine practice of suppressing information that harms its image and its need to sustain the propaganda narrative that the regime is keeping the pandemic under control. The tally that Lei gave nonetheless marks the highest yet recorded in the country since April 2020.

“There’s no way it’s accurate,” one resident from Changchun, where 9 million residents have been locked in their homes since three days earlier, told The Epoch Times, referring to Beijing’s official infection count.

As most countries learn to live with the virus, mainland China is among the final holdovers of the “zero-COVID” policy, despite growing questions about whether the goal is ever achievable and concerns over its mounting toll on the economy.

On Monday, Lei insisted that the approach, which the regime has recently labeled as “dynamic COVID-zero,” to be “absolutely effective.”

“We need to take action earlier, faster, stricter, and more thoroughly in outbreak response because the Omicron virus is sneaky and fast-spreading,” he said.

China Steps Up Measures To Control COVID Outbreaks
A health worker dressed in protective clothing waits to assist people at a mass testing site to prevent COVID-19 in Beijing, China, on March 14, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

‘We Have Families Too’

The policy has pushed officials to defer academic and civil servant tests, and more than half a dozen cities have suspended in-person classes. Many higher institutions are also barring their students from setting foot outside.

But the strain is already showing among the general populace.

At Shanghai Sixth People’s Hospital, which was locked down after one patient tested positive to COVID-19, an emotional nurse confronted a doctor who asked her to care for COVID-19 patients despite not having adequate protection gear. The doctor had told her “COVID-19 is not a contagious disease” and apparently hit a male nurse who refused to comply.

“Since you claim it’s not contagious, take your mask off,” the nurse shouted at a man opposite her who was donning a full hazmat suit and a transparent face shield mask in a video that went viral on the Chinese internet.

“You can ask all of us nurses here, most of us are taking sleeping pills,” the nurse continued. She added that they rise up at 4:30 a.m. to test patients’ health and sleep on paper boards. “My pulse rate is 120 minimum … we have families too.”

When authorities in Guangzhou, a southern port city, closed an exhibition midway upon identifying one virus case and trapped roughly 50,000 visitors inside for mass testing, some climbed fences to make their way out.

‘Just Laughable’

Backlash also followed when Shanghai officials evicted tenants with little notice to make space for quarantining virus contacts.

Li Min, who rented an apartment in the city’s upscale Xuhui district, said that she and about 100 other mostly office workers only got a two-hour window on March 10 to move out of the apartment building.

She was incredulous at first.

“This is not a hotel, it’s an apartment. Some of us have lived here for three or five years. To us, this is home,” Li, who used an alias when speaking to the media, said in an interview.

The residents began to protest through all channels available, calling the police and the neighborhood committee officials, and eventually the authorities extended the deadline to midnight. The residents paid all the moving costs out of their own pocket with “not a penny of compensation,” Li told The Epoch Times.

“If they at least gave us two days’ time, we could all understand,” she said. “But they put out such an attitude … why do you turn us out like this as if we are homeless people?”

An officer from the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism told Li that it’d be no use to complain to authorities because half of the officials in her district were in quarantine. Her best option was to “move out as soon as possible,” the officer said.

CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
A health worker (C) helps people to fill the information requested in an app to obtain a code and be able to be tested as a measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus near the Shanghai Jin’an Central Hospital, in Shanghai on March 14, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Called by The Epoch Times about Li’s claims regarding local officials being in quarantine, a staff member for Xuhui district government said they “have non-disclosure rules and cannot reveal such information.”

“Don’t make it hard for me,” the employee said.

District officials later apologized for the tight time frame, saying they were “under significant pressure” to contain the virus and “racing against time.”

Li put some of her 20 boxes of hastily packed things in her friends’ place and plans to stay at a hotel near her workplace for a week as she looks for more permanent apartment space.

“It’s just laughable,” she said, suggesting that the government policies are more political than practical.

“They don’t want to publicize the information,” she said, adding that it would be a bad look for Shanghai authorities to admit the full extent of the outbreak.

Zhou Bin (alias), a hotel marketing manager from Shanghai, appears to agree.

“The outbreak has hit Shanghai’s economy hard because of the COVID-zero policy,” Zhou told The Epoch Times. “This policy is hooked into the local officials’ career.”

Chang Chun and Luo Ya contributed to this report.


China Reporter

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Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at [email protected]